Prime Minister Narendra Modi left for Tokyo on Monday evening to attend the state funeral of Japan’s former PM Shinzo Abe, who reshaped Japan’s foreign policy including setting out a bold vision for a quantum leap in its ties with India.
Abe was assassinated in July this year and is being given a state funeral at Tokyo’s massive Nippon Budokan indoor arena on Tuesday. India had announced a one-day national mourning on July 9 as a mark of respect for Abe.
Mr. Modi will also call on Mr. Abe’s widow Akie Abe before returning to India.
Mr. Modi will also attend a formal ceremony for dignitaries at the Akasaka Palace (State Guest House) and hold a “brief” bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, his third such meeting this year.
Mr. Modi is one of about 20 heads of state and government who will attend the funeral for the former PM, including the Prime Ministers of Australia, Canada, and Singapore. Representatives from about 100 countries are also expected to arrive in Japan for the funeral, including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, special representative of Russian President on international cultural cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoy, and Chinese vice-chairperson of the National Committee of the Political Consultative Conference Wan Gang.
At a media briefing, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said no other bilateral meetings had been scheduled thus far with leaders other than Mr. Kishida, and that the Prime Minister’s visit to Tokyo would only last about 12-16 hours. Mr. Kwatra declined to discuss specific details of the agenda of PM’s discussion with PM Kishida when asked, whether progress in the much-delayed Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project, which Abe had announced during a visit to India in 2017, would be discussed.
“The discussions will take account and a quick overview and assessment of the overall relationship, its current status, its trajectory, and the steps that they both need to take to progress it further… it will not be proper to mention any one issue in this context,” Mr. Kwatra said about the PMs meeting, which will follow three weeks after Defence and Foreign Ministers of both countries met for “2+2” talks in Tokyo.
Mr. Modi and Mr. Kishida met in Delhi for the annual summit and in Tokyo on the sidelines of the Quad summit earlier this year.
Mr. Kishida is also expected to meet Ms. Harris for dinner on Monday, and hold bilateral meetings with a total of 10 visiting leaders. Apart from Australian PM Anthony Albanese, three former Australian prime ministers, including Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, and John Howard, will also attend the funeral, given their close ties with Abe, Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister (2006-7 and 2012-20).
Also Read | ‘My Friend, Abe San’: PM Narendra Modi
Protests against state funeral
While preparations are underway for a grand and large funeral service, with about 6,000 guests expected at the Budokan arena, which has a seating capacity of nearly 15,000, there have been protests against the State funeral for the former PM in Japan, local newspapers reported.
Last week, a man believed to be in his 70s set himself ablaze to protest the State funeral being given for Abe. State funerals are normally reserved for Japanese royalty, and activists have held demonstrations in Tokyo, citing the high cost of the ceremony as well as some critics of Mr. Abe’s policies and links to a conservative church. On Monday, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper that published a survey showing 62% of respondents opposing a state funeral also criticised PM Kishida for not taking clearance for the funeral from the Japanese Diet (Parliament).
(With inputs from PTI)